Patriot Games Better Today
By Kristin Battestella
Although I have the DVD, I can’t help but tune in every time Patriot Games comes on cable. The 1992 action thriller from Tom Clancy’s book is just as awesome today as it was then.
After averting a radical IRA terrorist faction’s attack on royal cousin and
I do have a few issues with Patriot Games, so I’ll just get them out of the way first. Sometimes 1992 doesn’t seem so long ago to me-but when you see the almost eighties looking styles here, we do remember this really was almost twenty years ago. Kathy Ryan’s clothes and style might have been posh at the time, but now…not so much. Some of the action sequences are also a little dated in choreography. It’s not that Patriot Games is small scale or ill paced by any means. We’ve just been treated to a lot more effects laden and much more complex and violent films in recent years. This is an action film, but there’s a lot of thought, character, and emotion behind it. Strange to say, but sometimes that seriousness isn’t what a viewer wants if they’re looking for mindless, desensitizing action.
Director Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, The Bone Collector) and screenwriters W. Peter Iliff (Point Break, Varsity Blues) and Donald Stewart (The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger) keep the best of Clancy and craft a fine blend of suspense and family drama. There aren’t many great one liners here, but the script is memorable and believable. Despite the extreme and sometimes improbable circumstances in Patriot Games, we believe that not only could this happen to the Ryans, but to any one of us. Even in the big action numbers, the camera is tight on the people involved. We feel the emotion whether things are rough and tumble or sad and somber.
But of course, who doesn’t love Harrison Ford? He is perhaps the best actor of this generation, and Ford shows his clout in Patriot Games. Instead of the bravado hero, we meet an older, worn family man. He’s a retired Dad-well off perhaps, but just like the rest of us in most ways. Jack Ryan is not a superhero. Ryan messes up; his family’s life is taken out of his control. Ford is able to deliver the sad eyes and tears when needed, but we know not to push a man to defend his castle. When Ford says, “I will fucking destroy you.” we believe the declaration as easy as we believe that the only thing in life that is “100% for certain” is his daughter’s love.
Before The Lord of the Rings, if Americans knew who Sean Bean was, they knew because of Patriot Games. His intense stare and quiet revenge boil over through villainous looks and actions-Bean only speaks about ten times in the picture. Even though that little dialogue is creepy, too, the silent intensity makes Miller’s vengeance-especially in comparison with Harrison Ford. Prior to Patriot Games, Ford (Do I really need to infer on Star Wars,
This is why American’s who know who Sean Bean is actually really hate him. You can’t just shoot up Harrison Ford’s onscreen family and expect our love. However, Noyce smartly uses the evils of Miller to his advantage. We don’t see any of Miller’s kill shots-the camera is always tight and up close on Bean’s face, showing us the cold joy he shares in murder. Miller even smiles when his prey is imminent. This isn’t the frights of fictitious monsters. In the novel, there is no brotherly angle for Miller, he’s merely pissed Ryan bested him. Presumably, the family efforts were added to give reason or sympathy to Miller’s ruthlessness, but this also implants a frightening personal question to the audience: What would you do if it were your dead brother? How would I react if my family were in danger? The reality of these questions and answers keeps the villainy real and our hatred on par. It’s a fine performance by Bean-one so good that us Americans can’t separate the actor from the terrorist. After all, they are both named Sean, aren’t they?
Patriot Games may be simplified as a man versus man vehicle, but there’s actually quite an ensemble cast here. It’s another facet not often seen in big action pictures. A superstar, maybe one or two name support players, but then the talent pool drops. Here, however, we’re treated to Samuel L. Jackson and James Earl Jones (Star Wars, anyone?), Polly Walker (
Naturally, Irish and English relations are very different then they were in 1992. If Patriot Games was exclusively about IRA relations, its politics would now be one of study and history. By keeping the story personal with family and patriotism at the forefront, the politics are able to fold and meld into our current issues, thoughts, and feelings. That’s all well and good for a heightened movie experience, but I must warn that lovers of all things Irish might be a little offended at the somewhat stereotypical portrayal of
The Special Collector’s Edition DVD of Patriot Games isn’t necessarily as special as we’ve come to expect magical special editions to be, unfortunately. There’s restored film and sound, yes; but only a short interview feature with some of the cast and some trailers, whoopdeefingdo. Widescreen is a must, and a blu-ray edition is available in addition to several Jack Ryan sets. Readers of Clancy’s novel will find significant changes in the plot itself, and some might find the troublesome ending too far changed or rushed. Nevertheless, Patriot Games may perhaps be the most loved of the Jack Ryan film series. Of course, it is not the first. Alec Baldwin helmed The Hunt for Red October in 1990 and Ford would continue in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger before Ben Affleck too over for a prequel attempt in The Sum of All Fears (2002). Each has their mistakes as well as their moments. You don’t have to see all to appreciate one, but Ford fans who adore Patriot Games should pursue Clear and Present Danger.
Action fans looking for an intelligent caper need look no further than Patriot Games. Younger audiences may not grasp all the intelligence and subtleties; but outside of the built in fright of the storyline, brief sexuality, and mild language; there’s isn’t much to deter a family viewing-especially a television edit. Fans of the cast will also delight again and again. Great drama, action, politics, and performances- how can you not love Patriot Games?